County residents rally in Toronto against wind turbines
[This article was written by Henri Garand, Chair of APPEC]
Opposition to industrial wind turbines (IWTs) took to the streets in Toronto on April 3. About 70 people from the County joined 700 other rural Ontarians for a rally against the new Feed-in-Tariffs that will continue to enrich wind energy developers.
A chartered bus carried County residents from Picton and Wellington, Big Island and Huycks Point, and North and South Marysburgh. We went to protest the absurdity of wind projects in a place as beautiful, peaceful and well-settled as Prince Edward County.
What motivates people to take a long bus ride, leaving the County at 8 a.m. and returning after 5 p.m., so they can spend precious hours in Toronto carrying signs, chanting slogans, and marching along downtown streets? On the way to and from the rally I conducted a small survey of the riders.
The purpose of the rally was to highlight for urban voters the real economics of wind energy. Brian Durell wished to “pressure the government to stop wasting money,” while Johanna McCarthy feared wind development “will bankrupt Ontario.”
Most riders on the County bus had a host of other reasons. According to Gord Deyo, “Wind power has nothing going for it.” Anne Dumbrille wanted “to help prevent the raping of the County, with all the cumulative economic, environmental, cultural and social impacts.”
Those who own homes and land near Gilead Power’s and wpd’s proposed wind projects face dire personal consequences. Among these Alon Klingenberg listed noise, shadow flicker and “property values being decimated.”
However, many potential victims were equally angry, as Sacha Warunkiw said, about “the autocratic control of government usurping municipal rights to determine where and if projects go.”
Gil Charlebois, who once expected to have four SkyPower IWTs behind his house, deplored the secret way developers sign leases with landowners, while South Marysburgh farmer Doug Murphy objected to the lack of concern for the effects on neighbours. Jack Dahl said, “The projects are tearing the community apart.”
The natural environment, especially migratory birds, was another issue. Sheil Karja opposed IWTs in the South Shore, and Rosemary Brown said, “It is essential to protect the Important Bird Area.”
Still others took a sociopolitical perspective. Peter Mennacher went to “support the movement,” and Jackie Soorsma to show “solidarity with other rural people against IWTs.”
Perhaps Bruce Dowdell spoke for everyone on board: “It’s time to stop talking and take action.”
Time to Rally
At Simcoe Park, gathering place for the rally, the action for County participants started by bearing placards with mostly familiar phrases like “No Wind Turbines,” “Save our South Shore,” and “Health Studies before Wind Turbines.” Forty other community groups had specially made, imaginative signs displaying a catalog of things wrong with wind development.
As people waited for the rally to begin, there was an air of quiet determination despite the protest songs played by a volunteer band.
Among the speakers addressing the crowd, Vic Fedeli, Progressive Conservative energy critic, and Mark Davis, Deputy Mayor of Arran-Elderslie, had the harshest criticisms of the McGuinty government but stressed that persistent public pressure would force change.
After the speeches, the crowd crossed the street and stood waving signs and chanting slogans (e.g. “Stop the FIT,” “McGuinty’s Got to Go”) for ten minutes outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It was the site of the Ontario Feed-in-Tariff Forum, where the wind industry was gloating over the continuation of gross government subsidies and biased approval processes. Police and security guards barred entrance.
Then everyone paraded along Front, King and Bay streets. Escorted by police officers on bicycles, we blocked traffic and handed out fake money to puzzled Torontonians. On one side the pieces of paper resembled currency but bore McGunity’s face and the denomination “FITY Dollars”; the other side explained the bad economics of wind development: high hydro bills, lost jobs and expensive electricity generation.
Reporters from CBC, CTV, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun covered the event, and an independent documentary filmmaker shot footage and interviewed a number of participants.
It was a lengthy march and exhausting time for the many senior citizens who had never anticipated a Draconian violation of lifelong rights.
On the ride home people reflected on the success of the rally. Bernadette Fischer summed up the general feeling that it was an achievement in terms of “attitude and participation.” Ruth Richards said it was “well organized and representative.”
For Kevin Scanlon the rally showed “how widespread is the opposition across Ontario.” Bill Peele felt it was at least a personal success because he talked with people from many other groups who face similar problems.
Gord Gibbins thought it was good publicity, and Trish Worrou credited the rally for media exposure.
Sometimes the news got delivered immediately. Janice Gibbins said, “City people were reading the signs, taking pictures and asking questions.” But Bob Dzikewich was astonished to meet a young man who didn’t know what a turbine was. Clearly, as Kathy McPherson said, the rally was “a start at making people aware.”
The question of political impact was not as easy to answer, though few opinions were optimistic. Former MP Bill Wightman judged that the rally was “not a success in terms of influencing government.”
Marilyn Lauer worried that “McGuinty is blinkered and inflexible.” “McGuinty doesn’t care,” added Libby Crombie. Chris Keen said, “McGuinty has backed himself into a corner,” and Doug McPherson agreed: “McGuinty has to find a way to backtrack.”
Others looked for allies. Steve Treasure argued that McGuinty has to heed speakers like Vic Fedeli and Toronto councillor Paul Ainsley. Theresa Brannigan said, “We have to get the attention of urban voters.”
“At least the Progressive Conservatives are listening,” noted Paul Wallace. “It’s up to Hudak,” said Stu Colvin, “to use this opportunity to inform people.”
However they read the politics, most bus riders echoed the rally’s main message: “We’re not going away!”
“Next time,” said Joanne and Mike Slaven, “we’ll make our own signs.”